Yersinia spp

From Dog
Intracellular Y. pestis in dog primary macrophages.[1]

Yersinia spp are a Gram-negative, anaerobic bacteria which is found in the gastrointestinal tract of dogs.

Species which are pathogenic to dogs include:

  • Yersinia enterocolitica
  • Yersinia pestis

Y. pestis, the cause of human bubonic (pneumonic) plague, causes severe disease in natural rodent hosts such as mice, ground squirrels and prairie dogs, but mild to inapparent disease in dogs[2].

Y. pestis is maintained in endemic areas by fleas[3]. Dogs are believed to be an indicator animal for plague surveillance, but their association with human infections is thought to be rare[4]. The mechanism underlying the difference in disease severity of rodents and canines to infection by Y. pestis is not understood[1]. Following the bite of an infected flea, subcutaneous Y. pestis are phagocytized by tissue neutrophils and macrophages[5]. Cats appear to be more prone to developing disease compared with dogs[6].

Dogs infected experimentally with Y. pestis through either oral or subcutaneous route exhibit only mild clinical signs of short duration with no mortality[7].

Infections by Y. enterocolitica in dogs is usually related to septicemia, with systemic disease such as suppurative hepatitis[8].

Diagnosis of infection is based on selective anaerobic culture of the organism, immunohistochemistry and PCR assay species identification.

Treatment involves use of broad-spectrum antimicrobial drugs such as gentamicin, clindamycin or trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Ponnusamy D & Clinkenbeard KD (2012) Yersinia pestis intracellular parasitism of macrophages from hosts exhibiting high and low severity of plague. PLoS One 7(7):e42211
  2. Cully JF et al (2010) Disease limits populations: plague and black-tailed prairie dogs. Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 10:7–15
  3. Perry RD & Fetherston JD (1997) Yersinia pestis–etiologic agent of plague. Clin Microbiol Rev 10:35–66
  4. Wang H et al (2011) A dog-associated primary pneumonic plague in Qinghai Province, China. Clin Infect Dis 52(2):185-190
  5. Laws TR et al (2010) Neutrophils are important in early control of lung infection by Yersinia pestis. Microbes Infect 12:331–335
  6. Gasper PW et al (1993) Plague (Yersinia pestis) in cats: description of experimentally induced disease. J Med Entomol 30:20–26
  7. Rust JH et al (1971) The role of domestic animals in the epidemiology of plague. I. Experimental infection of dogs and cats. J Infect Dis 124:522–526
  8. Byun JW et al (2011) Hepatic yersiniosis caused by Yersinia enterocolitica 4:O3 in an adult dog. J Vet Diagn Invest 23(2):376-378